Wetlands remain obstacle in Ocean Springs High School building plans

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - "It will be a beautiful campus and it will be one of the largest state-of-the-art campuses in south Mississippi, and we're overdue," said Ocean Springs Superintendent Dr. Robert Hirsch.

The new Ocean Springs High School will be so large, its length will be about the size of three football fields.

"You see the actual building, which is a quadrangle and open courtyard," he said as he pointed to the campus layout.

Hirsch wants to build the school on a large piece of land the district owns at the corner of Old Spanish Trail and the new Highway 57 extension. The campus would sit on 40 acres.  However, 20 of those acres are wetlands.

"We have some wetlands issues that we're trying to resolve and we feel like we have a great plan that will please the public," Hirsch said.

That mitigation plan involves enhancing and preserving the remaining 60 acres of wetlands that are on the same property.

"There is no agency that is preserving 60 acres of wetlands south of Highway 90 that I'm aware of. That's why we think this is a community-friendly plan," said Hirsch.

Hirsch said the campus is also designed to reduce the impact on wetlands.  For instance, two practice fields and a softball field would be built on the wetlands to ease drainage.  And about 70 large hardwood trees would be saved to beautify the campus.

"We have a lot riding on that you know," he said.  "You got actually the bond issue tax that kicks in January, 2010. We got the plans drawn up.  We've have probably 20 to 30 different meetings.  We have done everything that we could do. We feel like we've done our homework. We feel like we're trying to be good neighbors and certainly consider the public.  Our primary motivation, of course, is the future of public education in Ocean Springs."

Dr. Hirsch said the district is in the middle of the permitting process, which takes about 120 days.  If the Corps issues a permit, construction could start sometime in November.

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